|A farmer sprays pesticide over rice paddy at a farm in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.|
On his six-hectare farm in the village of Keisen, on Japan's Kyushu island, Takao Furuno, 61, grows rice and wheat without chemicals.
He rediscovered an ancient rice-growing practice involving the use of ducks. Dozens of these birds, raised on the farm, patrol the paddy fields. They feed on insects and weeds, without touching the plants. Their wading oxygenates the water and stirs up the soil. Their droppings are a natural fertiliser.
Furuno has cut production costs and boosted output by about a third compared with his neighbours, who use chemical fertilisers. He sells the ducks too.
Some 10,000 Japanese farmers have purchased The Power of Duck [sic], the book he published in 2000. In 2011 the technique was successfully tried out in Camargue, southern France.
The trend in rice cultivation in Japan, which provides a livelihood for 1.4 million families, is, however, towards larger farms and more intensive production.